Skip to main content

The Google Pixel 4’s face unlock feature works when your eyes are closed

Google has been all about privacy over the past few weeks, but the Google Pixel 4 seems to have one glaring privacy flaw — its supposedly ultra-secure face unlock tech on the Pixel 4 works when your eyes are closed, according to a report from BBC News.

Of course, that could come in handy at times, but there are some serious issues associated with it. That means someone could unlock your phone using your face when you’re sleeping, or worse, unconscious, giving them full access to your device without you even knowing about it.

The actual tech is similar to Apple’s Face ID on the iPhone X and later, and Google has said that it’s secure enough to work for device authentication across the Android operating system. In fact, the company was so confident in the tech that it even removed the fingerprint sensor from the Pixel altogether — so if you want biometric authentication on the Pixel 4, you’re going to have to use the new face unlock feature.

The flaw in the system could be an issue for any number of reasons. Not only could it make it easier for snooping partners or friends to gain access to your device without your permission, but it could also make it easier for authorities to unlock a seized phone without permission.

The fact that the system works when your eyes are closed separates it from Apple’s Face ID, which requires you to have your eyes open and looking at the device. Apple actually allows users to disable that setting, but stresses that including it helps make Face ID more secure than it otherwise would be.

Google hasn’t included such a setting yet — but even if it does, hopefully it will switch it on by default. The fact is that most people don’t want to have to trawl through settings to make their device more secure. Users can still turn off facial recognition altogether, and instead require the use of a PIN code.

Of course, it’s important to note that being able to work when you’re asleep or unconscious isn’t all that different from fingerprint sensors. A malicious actor could theoretically use your fingerprint on your device when you’re unconscious. Still, hopefully biometric authentication will get more secure over time, and not stay at the level it is at now.

Editors' Recommendations

Christian de Looper
Christian’s interest in technology began as a child in Australia, when he stumbled upon a computer at a garage sale that he…
There’s something about the Google Pixel 8 that worries me
A person holding the Google Pixel 8.

Google released the next generation of Pixel devices recently, including the Google Pixel 8 and Google Pixel 8 Pro. These have been the best Pixel smartphones in a while, as they pack the improved Tensor G3 chip inside, better cameras, brighter displays, and more — all in a slightly updated design. I've been using the phones for a couple of weeks now, and I really like what Google's done with them.

But Google also added some more photo editing capabilities to the Pixel 8 lineup, with a heavy reliance on AI with the Tensor G3 chip. While these AI-heavy editing tools can help you chase perfection, they shouldn’t be relied on too heavily or abused.
The Pixel 8's AI tools are impressive ...
Magic Editor on the Google Pixel 8 Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends.

Read more
Is the Google Pixel 8’s Tensor G3 chip any good? We found out
The Google Pixel 8 Pro sitting upright on a park bench.

Google launched the Pixel 8 series earlier this month with notable design improvements over the last generation, including a brighter display, faster charging, and more. One of the most exciting changes on the Google Pixel 8 and the Google Pixel 8 Pro is Google's new custom Tensor G3 chipset that delivers spectacular AI experiences right on the device.

Despite advancements in on-device AI processing, Google's Tensor chips have traditionally been reported to lag behind other flagship chipsets when it comes to performance. This year, the chipset receives substantial microlevel upgrades that bring it closer to the competition, at least on paper.

Read more
I used the Google Pixel 8 Pro’s weirdest feature. I’m not impressed
The Google Pixel 8 Pro with its Thermometer app open.

The “Made by Google event officially wrapped up last week, and we now have the next lineup of Pixel devices. This includes the Google Pixel 8 Pro, the regular Google Pixel 8, the Google Pixel Watch 2, and a couple of new colors for the Pixel Buds Pro.

With the Pixel 8 Pro, we have a lot of nice upgrades. This includes a new Super Actua LTPO OLED display that reaches 2,400 nits of peak brightness and has Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2, the Tensor G3 chip, a slightly larger battery, and an improved camera system with 50MP main, 48MP ultrawide, and 48MP telephoto lenses.

Read more